LAST YEAR BrandonJennings became the first high school player to forgo a college basketballcareer to play professionally overseas. Whether the 20-year-old makes an impactduring his rookie season will depend on how quickly he can translate hisEuropean experience into NBA production—especially on a Bucks team that lostboth experience and production with the departures of forwards RichardJefferson and Charlie Villanueva.
This is an article from the Oct. 26, 2009 issue
The point guardjob is Jennings's for the taking: Only underachieving veteran Luke Ridnour anduntested second-year pro Roko Ukic stand in his way. Jennings gained acompetitive edge from the season he spent with Virtus Roma, where he battledgrown men for playing time, endured rigorous two-a-day practices and sloggedthrough a 70-game schedule. "At first I thought it was crazy, all thispractice and no days off," says Jennings, who averaged only 11 minutes forRoma. "But I think that really helped me get ready and mentally focused forthe NBA."
With Virtus Roma,Jennings was also steeped in the type of fundamentals-based team ball stressedby second-year coach Scott Skiles. But can he go from playing a minor role onan Italian pro team to logging major minutes with the Bucks? Jennings led theLas Vegas summer league with 8.2 assists per game while averaging 14.6 points.If he maintains that pass-first mentality during the regular season, it couldmean bigger numbers for shooting guard Michael Redd (who is coming off left-ACLsurgery), center Andrew Bogut (stress fracture of the back) and forward HakimWarrick, who signed as a free agent in July.
To bulk up his6'1", 169-pound frame, Jennings has added pregame weightlifting sessions."I don't want to get pushed around by [big] guys like Andre Miller andChauncey Billups," he says. But he and his teammates will need another yearof schooling before they graduate to the status of playoff contender.
PROJECTED STARTINGFIVE with 2008--09 statistics
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
|PG||LUKE RIDNOUR||PPG: 9.6||APG: 5.1||RPG: 3.0||SPG: 1.28||FG%: 40.3|
|SG||MICHAEL REDD||PPG: 21.2||APG: 2.7||RPG: 3.2||FG%: 45.5||3FG%: 36.6|
|SF||LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE||PPG: 7.2||RPG: 5.9||APG: 1.1||SPG: 1.06||FG%: 46.2|
|PF||HAKIM WARRICK||PPG: 11.6||RPG: 5.0||SPG: 0.59||BPG: 0.48||FG%: 49.1|
|C||ANDREW BOGUT||PPG: 11.7||RPG: 10.3||APG: 2.0||BPG: 1.03||FG%: 57.7|
KEY BENCH PLAYERS:G Brandon Jennings (R)*, 7.6 PPG; G-F Carlos Delfino*, 13.0 PPG; F-C KurtThomas, 4.3 PPG; F Ersan Ilyasova*, 7.6 RPG • New acquisition • (R) Rookie •*European stats
COACH: ScottSkiles (second season with Bucks) • 2008--09 RECORD: 34--48 (fifth inCentral)
POINTS SCORED:99.3 (15th in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 100.4 (16th in NBA)
Dunks last seasonby Hakim Warrick with Memphis. He ranked just 17th in the league, but his totalwas higher than that of the top two Bucks—Richard Jefferson (51) and CharlieVillanueva (48)—combined.
ENEMY LINES | ARIVAL SCOUT ON THE BUCKS
I don't thinkScott Skiles wants to live and die with Michael Redd. Redd is the one guy onthis team who can put up big numbers, but I've seen him shoot them out ofgames.... I love Luc Richard Mbah a Moute—an incredible athlete who plays hard,challenges you on the dribble, gets his hands on passes and loose balls—but hecan't shoot at all.... Andrew Bogut doesn't have great touch, and hisback-to-the-basket moves are not sophisticated. They can't throw it in to himand be certain he'll do it for them in the low post—which is a problem becauseI don't see anyone who commands a double team. But Bogut's tough and unselfishand smart. He'd look a lot better if they put better players around him....Hakim Warrick has a defensive presence away from the ball and can contestshots. His athleticism and ability to guard the rim might make him a decentcomplement to Bogut.... Luke Ridnour doesn't have the strength to create spacewith the dribble, and he doesn't have the quickness to beat you to a spot. Whenit comes down to needing a bucket or getting to where he needs to go to make aplay, those are things he can't do.